CALEXICO – The Calexico City Council met in a special session Wednesday to approve formation of a joint oversight entity between Heffernan Memorial Healthcare District and Calexico to provide emergency medical ambulance services for city.
“In this community we are expecting a new housing project. That means Calexico will grow by 600 more houses very soon, which means we don’t want to think about allowing anybody to tell us we can’t do this. We need to ensure that we keep our ambulance service in this city,” said City Mayor Maritza Hurtado.Once again, the city seeks to fund vital emergency services for the community, and officials from Heffernan Memorial Healthcare District expressed mutual interest in keeping Calexico’s ambulances staffed and operational for the benefit of residents.
Hurtado explained, “We don’t have a hospital; our hospital is a hospital on wheels.”
The council outlined the importance of the special session, and discussed terms both sides would need to meet before entering a formal agreement to maintain the ambulance services. The city has previously convened with a subcommittee of members from Heffernan to discuss the possibility of the healthcare entity helping Calexico keep the ambulance services.
Interim City Manager David Dale also talked about Heffernan’s requirements from the city. “Heffernan would have some oversight into how the funds are spent for the ambulance services, and we are looking to the council on how to proceed.”
Mayor Pro Term Lewis Pacheco said Heffernan officials were willing to meet on a monthly basis to review reports and regular updates from local officials concerning training, employment, financial, and operational matters. If satisfied, Heffernan would recommend suggestions and give the city a monthly stipend.
Eduardo Rivera, Heffernan’s attorney, Eduardo Rivera was on hand to explain Heffernan’s position. “I believe Heffernan is anticipating your approval of entering into an agreement with Heffernan for a provision of the ambulance services/ paramedic/EMT and Fire Station No. 2. Having those services remain status quo, I know that… you have to make some decisions by the middle of this month, so you have to take some action,” he said. “So Heffernan tonight is going to await your action as to whether you want to enter into an agreement and form an oversight committee as outlined by Mr. Pacheco, the mayor and the city manager.”
“I believe Heffernan is willing to make the commitment of $700,000 as required by your budgetary deficit by the fire department,” Rivera continued. “I believe Heffernan might authorize that tonight and give you the assurance that pending the development of a written agreement between the city and Heffernan for the oversight committee and the of the funds, which Heffernan wishes to allocate the programs (on a) pro-rate basis over six months over the fiscal year.”
Hurtado explained: “When this community voted for Heffernan to exist, they allowed for themselves to be taxed. They knew they didn’t have a hospital, so they accepted by voting and they could have those additional services in place of a hospital. Then also, Measure H was taxed so the city could have monies for police and fire which is exactly what we are doing as well. So this city has been taxed twice, because we know we are unique and the impact of taking care of a border.”
Currently, the city is seeking funding through federal funds and grants to help cover the costs inherent in a border community where people from across the border frequently use emergency services and do not pay for those same services. Officials said these costs are a constant drain on the city.
“What I have tried to urge Heffernan to do is to make a financial commitment to you so that you have that firmly in hand by your deadline of January 24th,” Rivera said. “Hopefully, upon signature of that agreement, we can issue one sixth of the $700,000 amount that is being requested by the city.”
“Historically, Heffernan has always helped with the City of Calexico’s fire department, emergency, ambulance services, and in that same vein, Heffernan wishes to continue providing a hand for this community,” Rivera said.
In closing, the City Council unanimously voted to approve the Joint Oversight Committee between Heffernan Memorial Healthcare District and the city. Afterwards, council members moved across the street to await the results of Heffernan Memorial Healthcare District’s vote on the same matter.